On February 25 and 26 1985, Osiris performed live at the Gulf Hotel. These musicians from Bahrain and the Philippines presented a very special show both for themselves and for the audience. Together with a traditional Arabic rhythm band they performed a new stage show centred round their forthcoming concept album Tales Of The Divers. The bandís aim was to blend some Oriental music with their western-oriented progressive rock sound. Therefore, my sincere sympathy goes out to Mohamed Al-Sadeqi (guitars, vocals), Nabil Al-Sadeqi (drums, percussion), Abdul Razzak Aryan (keyboards), Khalid Al Motawa (bass guitar, acoustic guitar, bass pedals), Howard Tiera (keyboards) and Mohammed Shafi (lead vocals, flute, vibes, acoustic guitar, keyboards). The concept album Tales Of The Divers should have been a prelude to the Visions From The Past- album, released on CD by Musea Records in 2006. The concept was based on the lifes and culture of Bahrainís pearl divers, who had flourished before the discovery of oil and the industrialization of the country.
The first day of the concert had been so successful that they decided to record the second show for a live album. Unfortunately, no mobile recording studio was available. So they recorded everything on an eight track Fostex reel-to-reel recording unit. However, the actual recordings were shelved waiting for better times to be released. In the meantime a medley of the album was released on the live album Beyond Control-Live in 2002. Several years later, after the death of bass player Khalid Al Motawa, Osiris wanted to release an album as homage to their late friend. New technology and the determination of the band members made it possible to restore the poor quality of the tapes with the recordings made in 1985. Now, 25 years later the world can hear why the two live shows at the Gulf Hotel were so successful.
Sure, you can hear that these recordings were not made in the best possible circumstances, but music wise the band performs some outstanding music. This really is good neo-progressive rock music mixed with elements from traditional Bahraini melodies and rhythms. They had been working on these pieces for almost a year, so it certainly wasnít easy to perform it on a live stage. Thatís why I started this review by saying that I had great sympathy for these musicians, because they had to play and record under completely different circumstances than their colleagues from the west.
During the live performance of Tales Of The Divers you can certainly hear many influences from western progressive rock acts. Concept albums as Tubular Bells from Mike Oldfield, Nude from Camel and Misplaced Childhood from Marillion came often to my mind during the listening sessions for this album. At the same time, the music reflects all aspects of the pearl diversí lifes such as preparation at dawn, departure for the sea and arrival at the fishing grounds. One song is based upon the fishermen discussing their adventures and another one describing the sea as a friend. This piece is sung in Arabic. The Storm illustrates a violent tempest coming upon and surprising the fishermen, followed by a piece which shows the anxious wait of the fishermenís wives for news of their husbands. The last dive and the preparations for the voyage home comes next and the show ends with the return of the fishermen to their welcoming families, with the final tableau showing the fishermen proudly displaying the pearls they took from the sea as a fine reward for their long days of labour.
Unfortunately, Osiris didnít shoot this event; probably they had a lot of work making the two lives performances at the Gulf Hotel a great success. It must have been a great sight to see them on stage accompanied by the folk group Al Wehda Traditional Youth Band. This band contributed traditional rhythms on percussion instruments to the music of Osiris. The perfect blend of traditional folk and electric rock music was considered to be a great success afterwards. During the show, the band also used a large video-screen to show images of the sea and of the fishermenís daily life. The show ends with a selection of songs from their first and second album next to some new compositions. People who like to hear great neo-progressive rock music with an Arabian twist I can strongly recommend this live album. It proves that there is a very thin line between western and Oriental music.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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